Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creating An App Version Of A Book

My illustrator, Carol Stevens, is amazing. With no coding experience, she has taken two of our books, The Chipmunk Who Wanted To Be A Bear and The Alligator Who Wanted To Be A Dog, and turned them into interactive apps for IOS (Apple products). They aren't available in the iTunes store yet (I will announce that soon!!), but I thought it might be helpful to share what we've learned here, since I believe that any product that makes text interesting, from books to ebooks to apps, aids the goal of childhood literacy.

Stevens used InDesign to create the apps. No coding is required, just design experience and a willingness to learn new things from video tutorials. I LOVE how Stevens took our book illustrations and made them animated and interactive. It is not a quick process, but she was able to create all the animation slides in Adobe Illustrator and then upload them into InDesign and create a Folio. She shared this Folio with me on my iPad, which I can read after I downloaded Adobe Viewer (which was a free app).

Here is a screen shot from The Chipmunk Who Wanted To Be A Bear App:
The Chipmunk Who Wanted To Be A Bear App
The icons along the left margin are for sound effects: A hawk, a growling animal, and a howling wolf. Since Chipmunk is afraid to leave his home (tapping on him makes him hide in his hole), these are sounds that he would find scary. Our beta testing children love to tap and hear the sounds over and over!

The icons along the bottom are: page up, hear the narration, hear the music, home page, page down. I happen to be a free-lance voice actress, so I was able to read and record the narration myself. We recorded in a sound studio, but it doesn't have to be that fancy if you don't have a studio handy. If you make sure you have a good microphone or headset, then you could record the narration without a sound studio. 

We just barely added the icon star on the right margin, thanks to feedback from our beta testers. When you first turn the page, stars appear indicating locations to tap to begin an animation. You can see those stars below in the screen shot from The Alligator Who Wanted To Be A Dog App:
The Alligator Who Wanted To Be A Dog App
See the four stars, three in the picture and one above? Those are the places where tapping once will begin the animation. The stars appear for a couple seconds, and then disappear. But we discovered that kids want to be able to see the stars again and again, so they always know where to tap for animations. Tapping the star icon on the right reveals the animating stars again for a couple seconds.

Stevens is brilliant with her animations! They add so much to the story. In this illustration Alligator is lonely, looking for a friend, and sad when the animals run away from his trying-to-be-friendly smile. Tapping below Alligator's chin makes a mouse run away through the grass. The star by his jaw makes a rabbit appear, see Alligator, and then disappear. While I enjoy books tremendously, I admit that an app animation adds a lot to a story too! Tapping above Alligator's eye makes his eye look forward and then back again. Tapping the star inside his mouth makes him close and open it. Tapping the star at the top of the page begins a ball bouncing from one side to the other.

Our beta testers, after a little experimenting, tend to touch the narration so that the story is read to them, and then listen while they tap all the animations. 

InDesign has provided a way for an illustrator/graphic designer to create an app without coding. That's fabulous! And I believe we will see more quality interactive books emerge in the app store thanks to that bridge. However, there were a couple limitations that I should mention. 

My favorite interactive book app is Miss Spider's Tea Party. It costs $2.99 and it's lovely! That app is what whet my appetite for an animated book app of my own. The illustrations and animations are fabulous, the storyline endearing, and the narration beautifully spoken. Using that interactive book app, I listed all the parts I wanted our books to include. We accomplished most of them, but not all. Without an animation and coding team, and using only InDesign, we had to compromise in a couple areas.

Without coding, we couldn't combine the animations with the sound effect. That hasn't been a problem for our beta testing kids, but it was on my ideal list, and we couldn't do it. 

The other limitation: when children tap on an animation more than once (and they love to do that), it can freeze or glitch the animation. It's no problem, pulling the page to the left (to the title page) and then to the right again, resets the animation. We also added the text "To reset animations pull page to left, and then the right" to help overcome that issue. So, it was fixable, but just an InDesign limitation to remember.  

We have yet to add our apps to the iTunes store, so I'll let you know how that goes, but if you're thinking about doing an app using InDesign, here are some links that'll help:

This is a white paper explaining how to take InDesign into iBookstore for Apple

This is a video walk through for submitting the app to Apple (you might want to see older videos in this series too, this looks like a great tutorial).

Step by Step guide to submitting the app from a DPS file

Some important quotes: "Creative cloud subscribers can create an unlimited number of “single issue” apps free of charge. if you are not a creative cloud subscriber, you can purchase serial numbers for creating single issue apps from the Adobe store. if you want to create a “Multi-issue” app, you will need a Professional or enterprise subscription to DPS."

"Note: Apple rejects many apps for being too “book-like.” Make sure that your folio is substantive and includes interactivity not available in ebooks. Also, do not select the “Books” category when submitting thapp."

Best of luck to you all! Let me know if your books turn into animated apps too!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Children's eBook Review: Isabella's Special Wish by Deborah Belica

My Rating
Illustrations: 5 Stars (simple and dainty water color illustrations)
Cover: 4.0 stars (it doesn't do the story justice, just read it anyway!)
Storyline: 5 Stars (unusual and mysterious rhyming story)
Total: 5 stars

I won't spoil the surprises in this imaginative book, so I'll just quote the beginning, "There once was a girl named Umbrella. You can't name a girl Umbrella! There once was a girl named Isabella."

This adorable book is about a girl named Isabella who is on a quest to make a special wish. On the way she walks and climbs up and down...things. You see, things are not what they seem in the book. At first it's something silly, and then it's corrected to something more practical that rhymes. I've not read a book like it and it is not only well-illustrated, but it's fun to read aloud.

My 8 year old liked to predict what the practical rhyme was, although she didn't always guess it right, which made her giggle. I enjoyed the fun rhymes and element of mystery (what is Isabella really doing?).

I enjoyed this book tremendously. So I interviewed the author, Deborah Belica.

VALERIE HARMON: What inspires your writing?
DEBORAH BELICA: My grandchildren who are 6, 5 and 3. I find it so easy to slip into their way of
thinking when I am around them. We play rhyming games which is really how the book began. We would
look out of the window of the car and see a tree then say: “tree, bee” or see a house and say: “house,
mouse”. Each taking turns to find something and make a rhyme with it.

VALERIE HARMON: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
DEBORAH BELICA: There is no doubt that the most wonderful thing about being a children’s author is
the children and their response to the book. When I hear a giggle or see a hug and think that my words may
have made that happen, well I feel very special indeed. A great deal of my readers have sent in photos of
the children reading the book or the parent reading to the children and I feel wonderful.

VALERIE HARMON: What is the toughest part of being an author?
DEBORAH BELICA: I have owned my own business but still this has been big learning curve for me. From authors pages, facebook pages, QR codes, ISBN numbers, Library of Congress Control Numbers, layout and design, book signings to public speaking all new to me. I would like to say here that finding the right publisher is key. My publisher has been awesome and we have a great working relationship.
VALERIE HARMON: What is your favorite book of all time?
DEBORAH BELICA: Illusions by Richard Bach, I have read this many times in my life and each time it 
taught me something different. A quick and wonderful read.

VALERIE HARMON: Which character from ANY book are you most like?
DEBORAH BELICA: Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Curious and trying to make sense of it all.

VALERIE HARMON: Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting 
your book.
DEBORAH BELICA: Well I had mentioned earlier that I do receive picture of children reading Isabella’s 
Special Wish, I got this picture from a reader:
VALERIE HARMON: That is hilarious! I LOVE that picture! Are you working on something new?
DEBORAH BELICA: Yes, Isabella’s newest adventure will be out in 2014.

VALERIE HARMON: Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping 
DEBORAH BELICA: Hi and welcome to the world of Isabella. Hope you enjoyed your visit. If you are a 
reader I think you will enjoy her adventures and if you are an author keep on writing!

To connect with Deborah Belica and hear about more Isabella, click here for her website and Facebook page.

~Valerie Harmon

Thursday, September 26, 2013

We are blogged: by Theo Lightfoot

Thanks to Theo Lightfoot for spotlighting the Wants To Be book children's eBook series. He says, 

"This children’s ebook series teaches kids the valuable lesson that they can be anything they want to be, no matter how unlikely it first appears."


"The point is, no matter how ridiculous someone’s goal seems, don’t disparage it. The more unlikely it is, the more the person will work to make it happen. And I think that’s the idea we want our kids to learn from these books."

Great review!

~Valerie Harmon

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Children's eBook Review: The Adventures of Titch and Mitch: Shipwrecked

My Rating:
Illustrations: 5.0 stars (adorable, and plenty of them, especially for a chapter book)
Storyline: 5.0 stars (page after page of innovative action and unusual adventures keeps the interest of children with its innocent fun)
Overall: 5.0 Stars

Titch and Mitch are pixies who get themselves in and out of trouble with their brave daring and sometimes just plain clumsiness. Stumbling down a hill and into a "giant" who wants to take them to "Biology" (whatever that is (they think)), Titch and Mitch barely escape onto a boat which shipwrecks and into more adventures they go, meeting a dog, turkey, fairy, rabbits, vicious hawk and a painted-yellow seagull!

The illustrations are reminiscent of the 1930's, almost each page of this e-book has adorable pencil drawings that add tremendously to the story (loved the Dragon Mouse!).

I hope to read more in this series and am glad to see another quality children's book in ebook form.

This is book one (out of five) of the Titch and Mitch adventures. Here are the covers (and links) to the other four:


 I enjoyed Shipwrecked so much that I invited Garth Edwards to interview. This is what he said:

Valerie Harmon: How did you become a children's book author?

Garth Edwards: On leaving university I worked in the chemical industry for many years, a rewarding occupation, although writing was always my main love. At the time I had to support a mortgage, a wife and two small children so the idea of becoming a full time author remained a dream until recently when I took the opportunity to jump ship and start writing for real.

I went back to the stories I told to my children when they were little. I found they loved stories about dragons, wizards, fairies, goblins, giants, talking animals so together we made up a world of fantasy. I showed them how to use the magic words "What if...?"

VH: How do you come up with your ideas?
GE: Here's how it works: One day I was inspecting a turkey farm and was amazed at the hundreds of Christmas turkeys gobbling around the floor of a huge barn. What, I thought, if one of those turkeys was an incredibly intelligent bird and very different from all those other turkeys in the barn. So it was that Wiffen the most intelligent turkey in the world was created and what a preposterous creature he turned out to be (see The Adventures of Titch and Mitch - Shipwrecked)

What if the huge hedge that ran alongside a holiday home we once rented in Wales was really hiding a mysterious and forbidden land inhabited by strange creatures? This led to an exciting adventure book called Escape from Mercy Hall, which turned into a trilogy.

What if there really was treasure at the end of a rainbow (see The Adventures of Titch and Mitch - The Trolls of Sugar Loaf Wood)?

VH: How did you find your illustrator?
GE: It was obvious I needed an illustrator before I submitted my books to a publisher. I found a web site where artists looked for work and I advertised for someone to illustrate a book about two pixies aimed at 5-8 year old children.

I received 184 replies from artists with samples of their work and they came from 17 different countries. I was bowled over with the response. I whittled them down to a short list and my wife and I selected Max Stazyuk as being quite an exceptional talent.

Max lives in Kiev in the Ukraine and although he does not speak English his wife does so communication is fine. He sent me his samples and they went with the book to a publisher. The publisher was impressed and invited him to London and so the books came alive.

VH: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
GE: There is never a dull moment. Starting a second career with something you love doing is great. My imagination is never idle.

VH: What is the toughest part about being an author?
GE: The time the publisher had in staying afloat when book stores were closing down. I had to take back all my publishing right and join the rush to ebooks if I was going to stay being an author. The only rights I had sold were the audio rights to the BBC and I have to say that the actor who reads them did a brilliant job. he gave all the characters a slightly different accent and tone. A real talent.

VH: What is your favorite book of all time? Children's book? Adult book?
GE: All the books by Roald Dahl are my favorite children's books. The adult book would be Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal.

VH: Which character from any book are you most like?
GE: Peter Pan.

VH: What character from your books are you most like?
GE:That would be the crazy boy Todd who makes his first appearance in Secrets of Mercy Hall. He started out as a minor character and changed from funny troublemaker to hero.

VH: Which book would you like to take a weekend vacation inside of?
GE:Wilbur Smith's The River God. I'd like to see at first hand life in ancient Egypt and the Valley of the Kings.

VH: What is your favorite season?
GE: Summer time. Light nights, cheerful people, barbeques, summer sports and so on..

VH: Have you had any funny experiences that happened while promoting your books?
GE: I was invited down to London by the publisher to talk to a primary school on World Book Day. I was collected at the railway station by the rep for the publisher and she met up with two people from a bookshop who were driving separate cars and one of them had a stock of my books.

The driver from the book shop said she would lead and we would follow because although none of them knew the way she had a "sat nav gismo" that would take us there. We left London and somewhere in the countryside outside the city we got lost. There were three cars driving in convoy down country lanes until finally we arrived at a derelict old school. The new school had been rebuilt some distance away and the sat nav hadn't been told.

When we arrived at the new school there was no time for lunch and I had to go straight into the school hall and perform. The school had made a big occasion of it and all the children were dressed up as characters from their favorite book. This included the teachers with the headmistress, Mrs Smith, dressed as the Queen of Hearts.

I thought it went well with a lot of laughter and support. At the beginning I told them about a large prehistoric egg washed up on the beach and at the end of my talk I would ask them what they thought would be in it.

"Now what about the egg," I said finally. "What do you think came out of it? Would it be frightening?"
The first hand that went up was that of a sweet little girl about 6 years old and she said.
"Mrs Smith 'cos she's my worst nightmare!"

VH: Anything you want to say to followers of this blog.
GE: If people keep buying my books I'll keep writing. In the North East of England there's a school scheme where children age 10/11 read and write reviews of a book. My book Escape from Mercy Hall is one of the books they use and I have to judge the winners. It is very satisfying to read these reviews and that alone would keep me writing. One day I'll blog some of the reviews they come up with but there's no time in this interview.

If you want to know more about the Titch and Mitch adventures or their author Garth Edwards, here are some helpful links:

(disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review and I'm not affiliated in any way with the author)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

WantsToBe featured on Mrs. Mommy Booknerd Book Reviews & More

I just stumbled on this blogpost of my WantsToBe children's picture eBook series. It was written in July, but I didn't notice that it was up until now! Ha ha. Feels super though, to have someone blog about my books. And to like them!

Mrs. Mommy Booknerd says, "I love these stories about the unlikely interaction between the animals and the sheer determination to make a change!  The stories are original and the pictures are colorful and fun!  My kids and I loved to see how each book would end and what the animals would change into!"

Thanks Mommy Booknerd! I'm glad you and your kids enjoyed our books!

~Valerie Harmon

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Children's eBook Review: Stick's Masterpiece by Spencer Hanson, Illustrated by Randy Hanson

My Ratings for Stick's Masterpiece:
Cover and Illustrations: 5 Stars
Storyline: 4.75 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars

Stick doesn't feel like she can paint and is too scared to try. But when a bird is hungry she paints him food and goes on to paint help for many animals. In the end, she discovers that her acts of service while painting has created a masterpiece. 

This is a fabulously illustrated story about overcoming fear by serving others. I appreciated its deeper message--thinking about others first is an important one for my children to learn. I love love love the illustrations. I hope Stick goes on another painting adventure! 

Here is the book trailer for Stick's Masterpiece:
With almost Disney-esque illustrations, I read this aloud twice in one night because the illustrations are so well-done. 5 stars for cute and unique illustrations. 4.75 stars for storyline. The text is in ABCB rhyme and there was one read aloud stumble spot, rhyme is very difficult. But it was a tiny hiccup and the storyline of overcoming fear by thinking of others is very worth reading, so I give it a 5 stars overall (if you wonder at my high ratings on my blog, keep in mind that only the best books make it to my blog. I review a lot of children's eBooks that don't make my blog because they aren't quite up to quality). 

I highly recommend this book for an adorable and meaningful bedtime story. 

I also recommend this book because of its unusual sales strategy: You can download the book for FREE (in four different formats) and if you want a full color hardcopy, it's only $5! I admire this unusual strategy! And it's so endearing, that I think the authors know we readers will want to touch the book. 

Here's a video about them explaining Creative Commons (for their Kickstarter project):

And did you notice their company name? The Brother's Whim! The author and illustrator are brothers. Can I give extra points for clever names on this one?

You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr (for full photos of the book) and their Brothers Whim website.

~Valerie Harmon

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Author Interview: Theo Lightfoot and his Tiger and Mouse series

Today's Author Interview is with Theo Lightfoot, author of the Tiger and Mouse series: The Gift of Helping Others and The Pebble of Perseverance.

Theo's Biography: Theodore Lightfoot gains inspiration for his books from his two children, Asher, age 6 and Audrey, age 4, and wife Laura, who is an early childhood educator. After years of telling impromptu stories at his kids' request, Theo is thrilled to create stories to be enjoyed by all. His favorite activities with his kids include going to the zoo and aquarium, baseball games, playing at the park, bike rides, and of course reading books (his kids have pretty much exhausted the selection at the local library.) His son Asher is crazy about animals, which is why animals appear in all Theo's books. His daughter Audrey loves everything girly--from princesses to makeup to frilly dresses--so perhaps there's a princess kid's book in his future. Theo grew up and now resides in the Pacific Northwest where it rains a lot. Luckily, he can write no matter what the weather.

The Gift of Helping Others
The Pebble of Perseverance

My children and I really enjoyed these books. You can read my review and rating on my July 2 post.

My interview with Theo Lightfoot:

Valerie: Your books are illustrated by Elizabeth and Phillip Armstrong. How did you connect?
Theo: I met my illustrator at my day job. She and her husband co-illustrated the books. The illustrations are watercolor.

Valerie:  What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Theo: Having a finished product you're proud of, that's out there in the world--is one of the most satisfying feelings in life.

Valerie: What is the toughest part of being an author?
Theo: I'm a perfectionist so I'm always thinking, "Oh I should have done this or that in the story or with that line." The other thing is that I design the layout of my books, which is a real drag when you're not a designer and don't have the right tools to do it efficiently.

Valerie: If you could not be author, what would you do/be?
Theo: Well, I've been in bands and playing music since age 15, so probably a rock star.

Valerie: What is your favorite book of all time?
Theo: My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. It's about an extremely talented young Jewish artist who struggles to reconcile his art and his faith. When I read it, I knew I had to be an author.

Valerie: Which character from any book are you most like?
Theo: The Who in Horton Hears a WhoSmall and insignificant but hopefully can make a difference.

Valerie: What character from your books are you most like?
Theo: Mouse. Overly responsible and a little afraid to have fun.

Valerie: Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
Theo: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway or The Bible would be pretty cool too.

Valerie: Are you working on something new?
Theo: Always. I have so many ideas but limited time to put things together. I have ideas for 3 or 4 more children's books, and about 4 novels. Maybe in the next 10 years I can get to them all.

Valerie: Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
Theo: Thanks for supporting children's book authors. We appreciate it.

Thank you Theo for the interview. You can find out more about Theo on his website, Facebook, and Amazon.

~Valerie Harmon

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Children's e-Book Review: Blucy by Julia Dweck, Illustrated by Erika LeBarre

My Ratings:
Cover and Illustrations: 5 Stars
Storyline: 4 Stars
Overall: 4.5 Stars

Today's Book Children's e-Book Review is Blucy by Julia Dweck and illustrated by Ericka LeBarre.

Available for PreSale until August 12 2013. Pre-Order here.

Mandy finds an unusual cat at the pound: Lucy. Lucy, whose fur is color-triggered by emotion, turns blue when she arrives at her new home and Mandy re-names her Blucy (because of her fur color--so adorable!). Blucy camouflages herself next to blue things and destroys everything from presents to walls until Mandy makes a discovery that fixes everything. And Blucy's fur remains blue with happiness.

The illustrations are FABULOUS (5 stars!), kudos to Erika LeBarre. The rhyme maintained the rhythm almost the whole time, great job Julia Dweck. I loved the beginning and ending best (5 star work!), and even though the middle dragged a tad, the illustrations kept me turning the page and the lovely ending surprised me. 

Overall, this is a 4.5 star book and I highly recommend it!

I was able to ask Julia some questions and this is what she said:

Valerie: Why do you like to write children's picture books?

Julia: I have a very visual imagination and picture books are a great way to convey the colorful images I see in my mind as I write my stories.

Valerie: What are some of your favorite children's books? Big people books?
Julia: As a child, I gravitated to Seuss. I loved the humor and rhythm of his rhyme. As a teacher, I read a lot of YA with my older students. My current favorite is Airman by Eoin Colfer. It blends just the right amount of mystery, intrigue and suspense.
Valerie: What advice do you have for children who want to be writers?
Julia: Write about things that interest you. Keep a journal of ideas. Share your stories with family and friends. And remember that all writers write, rewrite and then rewrite again.
Valerie: If you were a Blucy-cat, what color would you stay?
Julia: I would be blue, just like Blucy, because blue is my all-time favorite color. In fact, the couch in my den is solid blue. I love to lie back on it, relax and dream up new story ideas. Colors can definitely affect our mood. What's your favorite color?
Valerie: I can't decide between blue or green. So I pick both! Maybe I'd be a calico Blucy, both blue and green. 

Julia Dweck

About author Julia Dweck: Julia Dweck writes children's stories for digital and traditional publication. Her stories span the spectrum of humor, fantasy, and edutainment in rhyme and in prose. Julia's background in elementary education affords her the opportunity to be in touch with what children want to read and what makes them giggle. She's collaborated with leading artists in the world of children's literature to produce over 20 bestselling Amazon eBooks.

About illustrator Erica LeBarre: Erika LeBarre graduated from the College for Creative Studies with a BFA in illustration. After graduating, she worked at an art studio with other illustrators and designers for over four years. Since then she has worked as a freelance illustrator out of her home. Her life has come full circle by having the opportunity to teach at the College for Creative Studies.

You can find the book Blucy on Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook. You can learn more about author Julia Dweck on her website, on Facebook and her Amazon author page.

~Valerie Harmon

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Author Interview: Ria Burgess and The Worderers

Today's Author Interview is with Ria Burgess, who co-wrote the children's chapter book The Worderers and The Meaning Maker with Michael Oliver. They live in England (note that the spelling of Ria's words is British style and not a misspelling). Click here for their Worderers Facebook page.

Valerie: What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
Ria: I love being able to spend my time doing something creative and creating a whole new world that is so different to my own.  I have always loved to write and even as a little girl I would write stories wherever and whenever I could.  Writing has always been a source of release and a therapeutic process for me and I enjoy having that quiet time alone to create and explore new ideas.  And of course, one of the best things about being an author is seeing or hearing about people who enjoy reading your work.  For such a  long period of time it was just us and our book shut away while we're writing it and it can be a scary thing to release it into the world for other people to read as it feels like someone is reading your personal diary.  However, when you start to get good feedback on it you realise it was all worth it and it has inspired us to write more! 

Valerie: What is the hardest part of being an author?
Ria: The toughest part of being an author is not having enough hours in the day to write.  As well as being an author I also work full-time as a manager of a live music and entertainment venue and Michael works in a film studio which only leaves us with evenings and weekends to write (or sometimes I may fit in an hour or two at work when it's not very busy, but I shouldn't really).  So when we get into a book we just want to write and write but only have a fairly limited time in which to do so so we end up staying up all night to get a chapter finished or to form an idea.  My ideal would be for us to set ourselves up in the study of our house and write all day everyday together.

Valerie: What is your favorite book ever?
Ria: I have two favourites, from my youth my favourite book was Matilda by Roald Dahl and more recently one of the best books I have read was Room by Emma Donoghue which is a book about a young woman and her son who have been held hostage in a strange man's shed for years and she tries to raise her son as best she can with no contact with the outside world. 

Valerie:  What inspired your book cover (I love the old leathery look!)?
Ria: The book cover is actually a picture of a notebook that I own and before I even started writing the book I knew exactly what I wanted the book that features in the story to look like.  I saw this notepad being sold on the table of a market in Covent Garden in London and had to buy it straight away and kept it in my writing room at home to help inspire me as I wrote. 

Valerie: What would you say to anyone who reads this interview?
Ria:  Promoting children's books and reading is so vital.  Children should engage with reading from a very young age not only to help their imaginations develop but to also illustrate to them the possibilities available to them in life and to teach them valuable lessons along the way.  We hope that The Worderers and The Meaning Maker is enjoyed on all of those levels while also imparting the importance of education and family.  It would be our dream to have this book published as a hardback one day and displayed in a bookshop window so we are trying to generate as much interest in the book as possible while we wend it out to literary agents for representation.  We will always welcome any feedback, ideas or suggestions on the book either via the books Facebook page or via e-mail.

Best wishes to you Ria, and dear reader, in your reading and writing!
~Valerie Harmon

(Disclaimer: Valerie Harmon received a free copy of the this book in exchange for a fair and honest review)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Study Resolves the eBook versus Print Book Debate

I love the feel of a printed book in my hand, and I don't think that e-books will completely replace the printed text. Even with full color children's books now so available on devices, I will always have printed children's books on my bookshelves.
I will always have printed books on a bookshelf. And more books than bookshelf!
 That being said, I'm a big believer that Availability of Books increases literacy, and that the source, whether it be a paperback, hardback or e-book, doesn't matter. Mobile reading devices have made it so portions of my "bookshelf" are portable. And increasing the portability of books is good for me and my children.
My son reading a printed book--but he loves iPad stories at bedtime!

The opposite camp believes that reading from e-books is a moral decision and print books are "better" in terms of child literacy. A recent Kobo Books study refutes that! It's heavy reading, so you might appreciate a summary paragraph:

"The view that somehow a print book is “better” in terms of
helping children learn to read – which seems to be at the root
of resistance to eBooks – is a matter of opinion not borne
out in research. There has been no substantive study proving
whether reading to children with eBooks is better or worse
than print in terms of development or educational value,
according to a spokesperson for the Children’s Book Council,
a New York–based industry association for children’s book
publishers (2), and some new research being conducted in
education shows signs that eBooks might even have an edge
when it comes to encouraging reluctant readers to take on the
challenge of a book. "

Print books do not have more reading value than e-Books? e-Books encourage reluctant readers? This is good news for the argument of print vs. digital--both are good and aid child literacy. Isn't that a belief we all can support?
Click on this link for the entire text.

e-Books mean more books are available to read. However, Availability doesn't necessary mean Quality, which is why I've made it my mission to review and spotlight quality children's e-books. Subscribe to my blog and comment below on children's e-books you'd like to see reviewed.

~Valerie Harmon

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Author Interview: Mary Lee and her Princess series

Today's Author Interview is with Mary Lee, author of 10 published children's picture e-books. Her illustrated e-books are for pre-school aged children to 8 years old, depending on the book. :
Mary's Bio: "I am a writer, illustrator, graphic designer and a mom. I've lived in various places across the country but currently my heart is in the Bay Area. I have two sweet children, two dogs and a mini-cactus named Spike. In my free time (ha ha ha), I like to read books, jog slowly, cook badly and sleep rarely."

The Little Pup series:

Why? Because I Love You!

Sweet Dreams Little Pup
I Love My ABC's

Valerie: What is your favorite book of all time?
Mary: Oh, that's reeeeallly hard to pick one. Favorite kids book is The Giving Tree. For adults, currently I'm hoping Gone Girl becomes a movie. Crazy cool book. 

Valerie: What would the story of your life be entitled?
Mary: Hmmm, maybe Pickles and Muffins, The story of Mary Lee. Pickles is my replacement word when I want to curse around my kids, and Muffins is the only thing I've ever been able to cook well. 

The Mia series:
Surprise in the Kitchen
Not Just a Princess
Beautiful, Magical, Amazing Ballet

Valerie: What is something funny that happened while promoting your book?
Mary: I got a funny review from a kid once. It was for my book about how great

vegetables are The History of Veggies. He was a seven year old that went on a rant about how much he hates vegetables and because he hates them, this is the worst book of all time. He accidentally gave the book a 5 star rating. 

Ed the Dragon series:

The Fruit & Veggie ABC Book

The History of Veggies

Valerie: Which of your books is where you'd love to take a weekend vacation?
Mary: The Smartest Princess. It's set at a beautiful castle by the sea with a great garden and awesome library. I really needed a vacation when I did that one. 

The Princess series:

Princess ABC
The Smartest Princess
My 8 year old daughter and I enjoyed reading The Smartest Princess together, which I  blogged about here

Valerie: What inspires your writing?
Mary: My kids and other parents. I try to think of what other parents would want for their kids, whether it's help getting them to sleep, making them feel loved or getting them excited about ballet.

Thank you for joining me Mary Lee! You can find Mary Lee on her Blog (where she has cute princess coloring pages!), Amazon, GoodReads, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

~Valerie Harmon

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Children's e-Book Review: The Tiger and Mouse series, by Theo Lightfoot

Today's Book Children's e-Book Review is actually two books, by Theo LightfootThe Gift of Helping Others and The Pebble of Perseverance.

My Ratings: 
Overall: 5.0 Stars
Cover and Illustrations: 5 Stars
Storyline: 5 Stars 
This is a tender, tender book and we (my 10, 8, and 5 year old and I) loved reading it. It is one I will be reading to them again, a compliment I don't often say. Tiger's desire to help his friend and the sweet grace the Mouse family says over their food make a story that teaches a lesson of charity and made us feel good to read. Five stars for storyline and five stars for the illustrations that added to the story. Well done!

Storyline of The Gift of Helping Others: Tiger wants to play and is perplexed when Mouse single-mindedly looks for a nut and carries it all the way home. When Tiger peeks through a hole in the tree into Mouse's house, he discovers a scene that sends him gathering nuts and berries as fast as he can. What does Tiger see?

My Ratings: 
Overall: 4.5 Stars
Cover and Illustrations: 4.0 Stars
Storyline: 5 Stars 

I really enjoyed how Mouse helped Tiger accomplish his goals. Often we need that kind of help ourselves, and that's what true friends do. Five stars for a wonderful storyline. The illustrations added to the story and would've been five stars too, except that the island inconsistently changed sizes during the rescue scene. Total stars: 4.5, and a recommendation to read this book to your children! My 10, 8, and 5 year old all listened raptly through the entire story.
I really enjoyed how Mouse helped Tiger accomplish his goals. Often we need that kind of help ourselves, and that's what true friends do. Five stars for a wonderful storyline. The illustrations added to the story and would've been five stars too, except that the island inconsistently changed sizes during the rescue scene. Total stars: 4.5, and a recommendation to read this book to your children! My 10, 8, and 5 year old all listened raptly through the entire story.

Storyline of The Pebble of Perseverance: When water pours through the jungle, it creates a river between the homes of Tiger and his best friend Mouse. If Tiger wants to visit Mouse, he must improve his leaping skills. But it's hard! Can Mouse help Tiger jump higher? Can Tiger's new skills save Mouse from drowning? This book illustrates an excellent lesson about hard work and perseverance.

I enjoyed these books so much, I asked Theo Lightfoot for an author interview. See that interview on July 30th!

~Valerie Harmon

(Disclaimer: I received these e-books for free in exchange for honest reviews and am not affiliated with the author or Amazon)